A Journey of Trust

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S (Scripture): Genesis 12:1 The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing.

3 I will bless those who bless you,
those who curse you I will curse;
all the families of the earth
will be blessed because of you.”

4 Abram left just as the Lord told him, and Lot went with him. Now Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. 5 Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all of their possessions, and those who became members of their household in Haran; and they set out for the land of Canaan.

O (Observation): What a brave, bold, trusting act of Abram! And even more so, what a great opportunity God gives to Abram and Sarai!

What do we know of Abram? Not much. Sarai? Again, not much. Only that they were descended of Noah’s line (since Noah’s descendants had to re-populate the WHOLE earth…hmmm). Anyway…

Abram and Sarai leave what is known and what is secure to enter something new and different…with God promising to guide them the whole way.

A (Application): I wonder what Abram and Sarai mentioned of this promise to their household? I wonder what the children thought? What the 2nd cousin twice removed thought? What the grandparents thought? (“We’ll never hear from them again!”)

God speaks to us…but can we hear God? When God calls, a response is appropriate. Sometimes the response is to NOT go. Sometimes the response is to act. Sometimes the response is to remain silent. We have no set type of response. The response is discerned. And that discernment is best done within the trusted community to which one belongs.

I have felt called over the last several years to take steps towards equal justice for various groups. As a white male, I feel not guilt, but a responsibility to make sure those on the margins are heard and respected. In doing so, I leave my own “Ur,” as Abram and Sarai did long ago. As Abram and Sarai, I, too, trust that God goes with me.

One such venture into justice occurs tomorrow, January 11, 2018, with the congregation I serve: Advent Lutheran Church, Murfreesboro, TN (Http://TheAdventChurch.com). We will host the Rev. Ron Bonner as he leads a presentation and conversation on race relations. The workshop details are in the graphic below:

If you’re a Murfreesboro person…come on out!

P (Prayer): Lord, we don’t know where the journey will end, just that you will be with us. Thank you for calling and leading us. Amen.

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“Cutting” a Covenant

  S (Scripture): Genesis 15:9 The Lord said to him, “Take for me a heifer, a goat, and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” 10 So Abram took all these for him and then cut them in two and placed each half opposite the other, but he did not cut the birds in half. 11 When birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

12 When the sun went down, Abram fell sound asleep, and great terror overwhelmed him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign country. They will be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. 14 But I will execute judgment on the nation that they will serve. Afterward they will come out with many possessions. 15 But as for you, you will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will return here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its limit.”

17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking firepot with a flaming torch passed between the animal parts. 18 That day the Lord made a covenant with Abram: “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River – 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.”

O (Observation): The Hebrews didn’t “make” a covenant, or “establish” one, or “sign” one.  They literally “CUT” a covenant.  That is the Hebrew verb in the phrase “cut a covenant.”  

What does that looks like?  2 parties would come to an agreement – a covenant.  To “seal the deal” they would sacrifice an animal and lay the 2 halves opposite each other.   Then, both parties would literally pass through / walk in between the two halves of the sacrificed animal.  The purpose of this was to say, “Should I break this covenant, may I become as this creature that has been split in two.”   You would literally stake your life on keeping your end of the bargain. 

Notice how this applies to Abram’s situation.   Abram sleeps and God (in the form of a smoking firepot and a flaming torch) passes between the halves of the animal parts from the animals that were sacrificed earlier in the day.  

ABRAM DOES NOT PASS THROUGH THE ANIMAL PARTS!  This covenant is clearly one-sided.   

What follows are promises to God’s people, what are and what will be the descendants of Abram.  

A (Application): The same one-sided deal God made with Abram is the same sort of deal God makes with us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus’ sacrifice was not based on a quid pro quo. Nothing is required of us.  

Now…do show gratitude and thankfulness?  Yes!!!   Will grace be removed from us if we don’t?  No!   That’s the tricky part about our faith – a stumbling block for many.  

I look to the covenants – from the Old Testament and in Jesus – and I see a God that gives grace, free and undeserved.  

How does that affect me?  I do my best to give the same grace to others, for I have received it, and it is not mine to keep. 

What are you most troubled by in terms of forgiveness and grace?    Where is it a stumbling block for you?   

For me, knowing that forgiveness is available to all is a bit troubling.   But as soon as I draw a line, I’m the one playing God and I’m not comfortable with that.  Because that leads to judgment and that leads me to becoming a Pharisee again.  

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to know that your grace is available to all who call on your name.  Amen. 

The Second Covenant

  S (Scripture): Genesis 12:1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father’s household to the land that I will show you.  

2 Then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, so that you will exemplify divine blessing.

3 I will bless those who bless you, but the one who treats you lightly I must curse, and all the families of the earth will bless one another by your name.”

O (Observation): God commits for the second time.  Abram’s descendants will be blessed and made into a great nation.  God promises this, with little to no commitment needed from Abram. God simply chose Abram…and equips Abram along the way. 

The Canaanites live in Canaan.   Yet this is where God calls Abram to establish his new residency.  This is the Promised Land.  

Now what?  Now, God takes action.  

A (Application): So many times I know what I am called to do, but I’m too scared.   I overthink things, and get into “analysis paralysis.”   I try to plan all the steps, even before taking Step One.  

The grace is there. I need but extended my right foot and lean forward.  If I slip, God is there.   If I misstep, God is there.  

What are you afraid of?  What vision have you received that you’re just too scared to step into?

Remember Abram.  

P (Prayer):  God, carry me forward and remind me that you are with me…every step of the way.  Amen.